[mythtv-users] Motherboard / case suggestions for early 2022 backend

Stephen Worthington stephen_agent at jsw.gen.nz
Sun Dec 12 07:28:06 UTC 2021

On Sat, 11 Dec 2021 19:48:57 -0500, you wrote:

>Anyone have thoughts on the ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming 4 ATX AM4
>Motherboard? (

This looks like a lower end (ie cheaper) X570 motherboard.  Higher end
X570 boards can be very expensive, and are likely overkill for a box
intended for MythTV only.  But if you are intending to use it for
other things too, you might want to look at more expensive options.
X570 is great for getting 6+ (8 in this case) SATA ports that all work
when using the NVMe slots.  This can be important if you are like me
and keep adding more hard drives for more storage.

I downloaded a copy of the ASRock motherboard's manual and compared it
to my new X570 motherboard (used for a desktop Ubuntu box, with my
backup MythTV system on it also), and to my main MythTV box (with a 9
year old Asus M5A97 Evo motherboard).

The back panel is a bit sparse.  The glaring omission I can see is
that there is no USB-C socket.  It does have two USB 3.2 Gen2 type A
sockets, which would support USB-A to USB-C converter cables.  But I
am not sure about the power output support on a converter.  Also, the
audio outputs are only the basic ones.  My Asus ROG STRIX X570-GAMING
motherboard has 6 audio sockets on the back panel - the ASRock is
missing the orange and black sockets for centre/subwoofer and rear
left/right speakers respectively.  And the big one for me would be
that it does not have a TOSLINK optical output.  I connect my MythTV
box to my hifi system's DAC via TOSLINK.  On higher level X570
motherboards, all the USB-A back panel ports would be USB 3.2 Gen2,
where here there are only 2x USB 3.2 Gen2 (10 Gbit/s) and the rest are
USB 3.2 Gen1 = USB 3.0 (5 Gbit/s).

The internal USB options are also a bit lacking.  These are used for
the front panel USB on your case, or to USB sockets on an unused or
empty PCIe slot.  On my MythTV box, I have one of the internal USB 3.0
connectors attached to a cable that comes out of an unused slot
position on my case to two USB 3.0 sockets that are not mounted - just
lying on the table at the back of the case.  Both sockets are in use,
one for a dual USB 3.0 drive mount and one for a quad USB 3.0 drive
mount, containing my 6 "archive" drives, which store older recordings
and are normally shut down unless I am wanting to watch a recording on
one of them.  The 8 SATA ports on the MythTV box's motherboard are all
in use, one for a DVD writer, 1 for my 4 drive eSATA mount for my
videos drives and 6 for 6 of my recording drives.  So the extra
archive drives are all on USB 3.0, as is one recording drive on a
single USB 3.0 drive mount.  My MythTV box is a fairly extreme case
with its 17 hard drives, but the possible need for it to grow was
certainly in mind when I chose that motherboard.  I am really glad I
did make sure it had that many SATA and USB 3.0 ports.

There appear to be only TPM headers, but no TPM installed.  So it is
not Windows 11 compatible without adding a TPM.  That is not a problem
now for running Linux, but may become one in the future for doing
encryption and secure boot, should you want to do that.  Running
Windows 11 in a virtual machine would likely also need a TPM.  I do
run a Windows 10 VM on my MythTV box occasionally for full control and
monitoring of its Corsair RM650i power supply.  There is only limited
support for the RM650i in Linux.

The PCIe slots are what you would expect for a cheaper X570
motherboard.  More expensive ones have one more PCIe x16 physical slot
(3 total), and two of the three will do at least PCIe x8 electrically
with one doing full x16.  The ASRock has two PCIe x16 slots
physically, but only one is x16 electrically - the other is x4 only
with the remaining pins unconnected.  All the slots (including the x1
slots) will do PCIe v4.0, which is good.  Some motherboards have slots
that will only do PCIe v3.0 even when using a CPU that does PCIe v4.0.
The second PCIe x16 slot (x4 electrically) is still very useful, but
not for an using an older video card that needs PCIe x16 pins for full
bandwidth.  Such older video cards will only do PCIe v2.0 or v2.1, and
need the full x16 pins to get their bandwidth.  New video cards often
have PCIe x16 pinouts physically, but can use only x4 electrically as
the much faster PCIe v3.0 or v4.0 allows them to get their bandwidth
requirements with just 4 lanes of PCIe.  I am using Nvidia GT1030
cards.  They are all PCIe x4 electrically, and my Asus ones are PCIe
x16 physically.  I have one EVGA GT1030 that is PCIe x4 physically. So
if you are using lower end cards like the GT1030, they will work fine
in the second PCIe x16 slot.  The more powerful video cards will still
need PCIe x16 electrically, and also PCIe v3.0 or v4.0 in order to get
enough bandwidth.  Such cards are completely unnecessary for MythTV,
but if you are using the box for other video intensive things (such as
gaming), you need to consider whether you need two full PCIe v4.0 x16
slots, or at least one PCIe v4.0 x16 and one or two PCIe v4.0 x8,
which is all that I think X570 will do except in quite unreasonably
priced boards.

For other uses of PCIe slots, what tuners are you using?  What may you
want to upgrade to in the lifetime of a good motherboard (8-10 years)?
I have two PCIe x1 tuner cards in my MythTV box.  One is an 8 tuner
DVB-T2 card and one is an 8 tuner DVB-S2 card.  So that uses up two
PCIe x1 slots, although they will work in larger slots too.  If you
want room to add more PCIe tuners, you will need at least one empty
slot for that.  And I would expect that over the next 5 years Ethernet
speeds will be increasing.  Some X570 motherboards already come with a
2.5 Gbit/s Ethernet port, and 2.5 Gbit/s Ethernet is starting to be
used in real life (2.5 Gbit/s switches are already not too expensive).
I would be planning though for needing a PCIe x4 slot for a faster
Ethernet card during the lifetime of any motherboard purchased today -
I think 10 Gbit/s Ethernet will be a real thing in under 5 years, now
that hard drives and SSD speeds are so much faster than 1 Gbit/s
Ethernet.  I have several enterprise class hard drives that are rated
at 200-250 Mbytes/s sustained transfer rates, and NVMe now does over
7000 Mbyte/s, so 1 Gbit/s Ethernet is becoming a bad bottleneck.

If you are needing more SATA ports at some point, such cards currently
seem to mostly need a PCIe x4 slot.  There are expensive SAS/SATA
cards that do PCIe v3.0 or v4.0 that might only need a PCIe x1 slot,
but the cheap readily available ones are older and only do PCIe v2.0
or v2.1.  And there are some very cheap x1 SATA only cards on
Aliexpress that say they do 4 or even 8 SATA ports, but that would
only work if they shared bandwidth or were PCIe v4.0 (which they are
not).  So there would be major clashes for bandwidth with more than
one or two SATA drives on such cards - they are best avoided.

One really nice feature my Asus ROG STRIX X570-E GAMING motherboard
has is a thing Asus call Q-Code.  If you have ever had problems
getting a motherboard to boot after you have added new hardware or
changed too many BIOS settings at once, this is extremely useful.  I
had no idea it was there when I bought the motherboard, but I found it
very useful.  It is just a 2x7-segment display on the motherboard that
displays the current state of the BIOS.  The BIOS updates the Q-Code
display every time it changes state during booting, so when a boot
fails, you can see what it was last doing.  The manual has a long list
of these states and they do provide excellent guidance as to what has
gone wrong.  When I was using this PC to update the firmware in two
PCIe SAS/SATA cards, and again when I was getting PXE booting working,
I used the Q-Code display a lot and it made the process much more
rapid as I did not have to try umpty different BIOS settings to see
what I had done wrong.  Instead, the Q-Code told me directly what the
problem was.  The ASRock motherboard has only a very basic version of
this - 4 progress LEDs that go off as various bits of hardware are
initialised.  That is a lot better than some motherboards though.

XMP: DRAM is normally "overclocked" these days, using XMP settings
stored in the DRAM.  Good motherboards have the ability to read the
XMP settings from the DRAM (but you have to tell them to do it).  Bad
motherboards require you enter the XMP settings manually.  It looks
like the ASRock does have the ability to read the XMP settings from
the DRAM sticks, but the manual is not entirely clear about that.
Without using the XMP settings, the DRAM will typically run about 1/2
to 2/3 of its actual rated speed.

NVMe cards: When you fit an NVMe card into a motherboard M.2 slot, you
normally need a little screw to hold it in place.  The screws can come
with the NVMe card, or more usually with the motherboard.  Or if you
are unlucky, neither is supplied with the screws.  So you need to
check when buying a motherboard as to whether they are supplied with
screws.  The ASRock does seem to come with 3 screws, but the manual
has them marked as "(optional)".  Despite that, I would expect them to
be in the box, along with the two "(optional)" SATA cables.

Power supplies: Newer motherboards often need more power supply
connectors, which may not be on older power supplies if you are
re-using one.  The ASRock does not seem to need an extra one, just the
main connector (ATXPWR1) and the ATX 12V connector (ATX12V1), so that
should be fine.  The ATX12V1 connector will work with the new 8-pin
ones and the old 4-pin ones, although if you want to do any serious
overclocking you should probably use a newer power supply with the
8-pin option.

That is all I have noticed - I hope it is some help.

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